A Week of Budget-Friendly Summer Meals from Leanne Brown

updated Jun 9, 2019
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(Image credit: Kimberley Hasselbrink)

Where I grew up, you could always count on a neighbor or relative to share their zucchini or tomato crop. That goes double for rhubarb. In truth, it was less about sharing and more about off-loading, but this is all to your advantage if you play it right.

This group of recipes from my book Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day takes full advantage of ubiquitous summer vegetables, like zucchini, summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and cucumbers. You know, the good ones.

It’s time to take advantage of summer produce while it is bountiful and cheap. By using the same kind of vegetable a few different ways, you can buy in bulk — getting the best deal for your dollars — without getting bored to death by the same flavor over and over. You can even make a larger batch of something like my jambalaya and turn it into burritos for lunch the next day.

Eating in Season Is Budget-Friendly

These recipes show how powerful a few key tips from Good and Cheap can be. The most obvious one is to eat in season! Not only are vegetables tastier when they are in season, but they are almost always cheaper, too. This plan leans on summer vegetables, like zucchini and tomato, but if those aren’t your favorites, try something else — these recipes are far from sacred. Summer vegetables are flexible, quick-cooking, delicious, and can be used in an incredible array of cuisines.

Use One Ingredient Many Ways

If you think in terms of a whole week of meals and buy foods that can be used in multiple ways, you can be efficient with your shopping and planning. One week you may spend more at the grocery store as you fill up your pantry with spices and dry goods, like flour, but the next week you’ll make up for it, as you buy less and use up what is left from the week before.

Round out Your Week with Snacks!

Don’t forget about snacks. If you have the flexibility in your budget, buy a tub of yogurt (never those little cups, they are poor value!) and bananas for breakfasts and quick snacks. And don’t let your house be without popcorn kernels! Make popcorn on the stovetop, or pop them in a paper bag in the microwave. A satisfying crunchy snack is yours for pennies.

A Note on Budgeting for This Menu

The costs for each recipe in this menu plan are based on prices I collected from four grocery stores in one Manhattan neighborhood in the summer of 2013, as well as online grocery stores and nationwide averages, in a few cases. The estimates are, by necessity, a snapshot of place and time. Costs will vary in other cities, neighborhoods, and stores. Please think of the numbers as a guideline, not a guarantee. My book Good and Cheap isn’t challenging you to live on $4 a day; it’s a resource in case that’s your reality.

6 Meals for Your Week

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

This meal plan includes muffins for breakfast throughout the week, two lunches, three dinners, and some snack ideas for a household of two. The lunch and dinner recipes make enough for leftovers the next day, or include suggestions for reusing the leftovers in new ways — like turning leftover jambalaya into burritos.

Breakfast: Chocolate Zucchini Muffins ($4.80 for 12 muffins, or $0.20 each)

Lunch: Spicy Panzanella ($5.20 total, or $1.30 per person)

Lunch: Crustless Quiche with Summer Vegetables ($6 total, or $1.50 per person)

Dinner: Creamy Zucchini Fettuccine ($3.60 total, or $1.80 per person)

Dinner: Vegetable Jambalaya ($3.90 total, or $0.65 per person)

Dinner: Pulled Pork Sandwiches ($14 total, or $1.40 per person)

Total Meal Plan Cost: $37.50 total, or $6.85 per person

The Recipes

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Your Shopping List

(Image credit: The Kitchn)

Buy at the store

  • Lemon (1 medium)
  • Lime (1 medium)
  • Peaches, nectarines, or plums (optional, for panzanella)
  • Grapes (optional, for panzanella)
  • Yellow or white onion (3 medium to large)
  • Red onion (1 small)
  • Garlic (1 head)
  • Green bell pepper (1 medium)
  • Celery (6 stalks)
  • Carrot (1 medium)
  • Field cucumbers (2 small)
  • Tomatoes (2 medium)
  • Zucchini (5 small)
  • Jalapeño (4 medium)
  • Enough extra vegetables to make about 3 to 4 cups chopped (for the quiche)
  • Fresh basil (to top the fettuccine, and for panzanella)
  • Eggs (12 large)
  • Plain yogurt (1 cup)
  • Milk (1 cup)
  • Heavy cream (1/4 cup)
  • Grated cheddar or other cheese (1 cup)
  • Grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (1/2 cup grated)
  • Pork shoulder (5 pounds)
  • Fettuccine pasta (8 ounces)
  • Long-grain rice (3/4 cup)
  • Vegetable or chicken broth (4 1/2 cups)
  • Bread (4 slices)
  • Pitted olives (optional, for panzanella)
  • Dark chocolate chips (1/2 cup)

In your pantry (check to make sure you have enough)

  • Butter (5 tablespoons)
  • Olive oil (5 tablespoons)
  • All-purpose flour (1 1/2 cups)
  • Rolled oats (1 1/2 cups)
  • Sugar (1 1/2 cups)
  • Cocoa powder (1/2 cup)
  • Baking soda (2 teaspoons)
  • Salt (3 1/2 teaspoons)
  • Pepper (2 teaspoons)
  • Ground cinnamon (1 tablespoon)
  • Chile flakes (1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon)
  • Bay leaf (2)
  • Paprika (1 teaspoon)
  • Garlic powder (1 teaspoon)
  • Cayenne pepper (1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon)
  • Dried thyme (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Dried oregano (1/2 teaspoon)
  • Worcestershire sauce or soy sauce (1 teaspoon)
(Image credit: Leanne Brown)

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